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Choking: Understanding the Risks and Knowing the First Aid Response

Updated: Sep 27, 2023

Choking is a sudden and alarming medical emergency that can happen to anyone, anywhere. Knowing the signs and how to respond can be life-saving, whether at a family dinner, a playground with children, or even just enjoying a drink. Let's delve into this critical topic and understand how to offer the right choking first aid.

1. Signs of Choking in Adults:

The primary signs include clutching the throat, inability to talk or cough forcefully, turning blue, and showing signs of distress. It's essential to act quickly upon noticing these signs.

2. Choking Risk Factors:

Certain foods and objects are notorious for causing choking, especially in children. Foods that cause choking include grapes, nuts, and large chunks of meat, while objects commonly swallowed or choked on are coins, balloons, and small toy parts.

3. Choking Versus Gagging:

It's vital to distinguish between choking and gagging. Gagging is a natural response and often resolves on its own while choking is a blockage of the airway that needs an immediate response.

4. Steps to Help a Choking Victim:

If an adult or child over one year is choking:

  • Back Blows: Stand behind the victim and give up to 5 sharp blows between the shoulder blades using the heel of your hand.

For infants and toddlers:

  • First Response for Choking Toddlers: Lay the child over your arm, face down, and give up to 5 back blows. If this doesn’t clear the blockage, turn them over and give up to 5 chest thrusts.

5. Infant Choking Remedies:

For babies under one year, alternate between 5 back blows and 5 chest thrusts until the blockage clears or medical help arrives.

6. Special Considerations:

  • Choking on Liquids: This can sometimes lead to a coughing fit but can also be serious if the person's airway gets blocked. Encourage the person to keep coughing to clear the liquid.

  • First Aid for Choking Pregnant Woman: Do not use abdominal thrusts. Instead, use chest thrusts.

7. Prevention is Better than Cure:

  • How to Prevent Choking: Ensure food is cut into small, manageable pieces, especially for children. Discourage talking or laughing while eating and always supervise young children.

  • Safety Measures to Prevent Choking: Keep small objects out of children's reach and be cautious with foods known to be common choking hazards.

8. Choking First Aid Training:

While this guide provides a brief overview, attending a formal choking first aid training session is invaluable. Training sessions at provide hands-on experience, demonstrations, and first responder tips for choking, ensuring you're fully equipped to handle such emergencies.

In conclusion, choking is a serious emergency that demands quick thinking and prompt action. By understanding the risks, knowing the signs, and being prepared with the right first aid measures, you can distinguish between life and death in a choking incident. Stay informed, stay prepared, and always prioritise safety.



The information in this article is for general purposes only and is not intended as specific medical advice. While we aim for accuracy, we cannot guarantee the information's completeness or reliability. Always consult a healthcare professional for medical concerns. Relying solely on this content without seeking expert advice is not advised.


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